Last baby born at Wilford Hall, labor and delivery moves to BAMC

  • Published
  • By Linda Frost
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Baby Laurel Perez made history on Aug. 28.

She was the last baby born at Wilford Hall Medical Center and is now an important part of the 60-year history of labor and delivery here.

The Hauth Birthing Center, located on the 5th floor of the nine story hospital known as "Big Willie," closed Aug. 29 and will re-open at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas on Sept. 6 in a new state-of-the-art birthing center. The move is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Law and will provide military beneficiaries superior prenatal care, labor and delivery for years to come.

Born to Dina Perez and Army Staff Sgt. Mario Perez, baby Laurel arrived at 12:59 a.m. weighing 5 pounds and 6 ounces and 19 inches long. Both mom and baby are doing well.

"I never expected this," said Dina Perez. "I know there were other women who were going to deliver at Wilford Hall, but I never thought I'd be the last one."

A proud father of two girls, Sergeant Perez said he was shocked and honored when they told him they were the last couple to have a baby delivered at Wilford Hall.

The Perez family also has an older daughter, 9-year old Rosalie, who was born at Darnell Army Community Hospital, Fort Hood, Texas.

"The Wilford Hall staff was awesome. We couldn't have asked for more," said Perez, who works as a nuclear medicine instructor at the Medical Education and Training Campus, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "It's exciting to know they will continue their high quality care for other military families at Fort Sam."

The staff of Air Forces nurses, doctors and medical technicians at Wilford Hall, hustled about in the early morning hours on Aug. 29, filled with tears of joy and sadness over the last birth. The infant was delivered by doctors Capt. Damien Packett and Capt. Lisa Nicholson. Clinical nurse Capt. Joy Arce and medical technicians Senior Airman Ebony Rodriguez and Airman First Class Lorena Diaz assisted.

"We have a great professional team of active duty and civilians and they will continue that level of excellent, high quality and patient-centered care with our Army colleagues as they transition to Fort Sam Houston," commented Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, commander of the 59th Medical Wing.

The Army couple got a special surprise when General Hepburn and Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Robinson presented them with their military coins. The senior leaders were excited to share the joy of such a historic event.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment on multiple levels, especially for the Perez family," said Hepburn. It's a joy for the Perez family and it's a joy and honor for our staff to deliver this beautiful little girl."

It's uncertain what birth number baby Laurel represents. However, Matt Scales, historian for the 59th Medical Wing, reports that over the 60-year history of labor and delivery at Lackland Air Force Base, more than 103,482 babies have been born here. The first labor and delivery unit was formally activated in 1951 under the 3700th Medical Group, located in the same general area as the current Wilford Hall building.

"Technically, the first baby was born here in 1943 before labor and delivery stood up, but our statistics do not go back that far," he said.

William Edward Kellett, Jr. was born at Station Hospital (now known as Wilford Hall), San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center (now known as Lackland AFB) on Nov. 9, 1943, to Staff Sgt. William Kellett and his wife Mary Ellen. Kellett was a member of the 881st Preflight Training Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces. Delivered by Capt. William F. Geittman, baby Kellett weighed in at 7 pounds and nine ounces.

Ironically, on the occasion of the first baby born at Lackland, the wing commander also presented a gift - a baby's silver set.

"Time has brought many changes," said Kimberly Hatfield, civilian supervisor, Hauth Birthing Center, who started out at Wilford Hall in 1993 as a lieutenant in the Nurse Transition Program and has continued to work at the hospital since.

"Wilford Hall has always been on the cutting edge of services provided to patients. We now see patients who, in the past, would have been unable to get pregnant. The level of nursing and medical care in military health facilities continues to grow and we are very excited about the future as we transition to our new state-of-the art birthing center across town," said Hatfield.